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  • Deep Breaths


    Last week in this space, I wrote about how some of the Minnesota Wild’s underlying numbers look strong, despite the Wild’s poor results during the month of March. Since that post, the Wild has taken two loser points of a possible eight points from four games against Philadelphia, Vancouver, Detroit and Washington. Wee!

    There’s a lot of angst around this team right now and, last week, we went through xGF%, CF% and PDO with the latter being the real issue during this “slump.” As you know, PDO is the combination of shooting and save percentage, and typically stays around 100. I still don’t want to write about the goaltending. One, because goalies are voodoo and, two, because Tony already covered this two weeks ago. I can’t really add anything to that, other than to say that I think Devan Dubnyk will turn things around.

    But what about the other half of the PDO equation: shooting percentage? What’s going on there?  I pointed out that the Wild’s shooting percentage was third-worst in the league in March, by taking advantage of a cool new feature at naturalstattrick.com that lets us look at the last certain number of games and see the results in a slew of fun stats. Over the last 15 games, the Wild’s shooting percentage is fifth worst in the league at 6.02, up from 5.08 and third worst in the league from when I posted last week, but still terrible.

    Someone asked @hockeywildernes on twitter last night how the Wild’s shooting percentage compared during March to the rest of the season and I don’t know of a way to look that up. While I love the new Last option on Natural Stat Trick, there is not yet a corresponding “First” button to look at stats from the beginning of the season to a certain end point. I hope that gets added next.

    Instead, we’ll have to do some basic math. The 6.02 shooting percentage over the last 15 games is a result of 24 goals on 399 shots, all at 5v5. Over the full season at 5v5, the Wild has 169 goals on 1858 shots, for a full season 5v5 shooting percentage of 9.10. We need to subtract the numbers from the last 15 games to find the Wild’s shooting percentage during the fine run over the first 60 games: 1858 -399 = 1459 and 169 – 24 = 145. So, over the first 60 games of the season the Wild had a 5v5 shooting percentage of 9.94. Going from 9.94 to 6.02 means the Wild are basically scoring 40% less frequently on the shots on goal. That’s a big difference going from scoring three 5v5 goals on every 30 shots to 1.8.

    But what if we wanted to break it down further? Obviously, team shooting percentage is a function of the shooting percentages of the individual players on the team. How do we compare the shooting percentage of the players during the dreaded slump and the first 60 games of the season at 5v5? I don’t think we can. The new Last tool at Natural Stat Trick isn’t available on the Player section of the site. Corsica.hockey gives an option to use a date range in the Custom Query section, but none of the reports seem to have 5v5 shooting percentage as a data point. Maybe 15 games isn’t a meaningful representation of data to analyze due to the small sample size, but the 15 games are meaningful and relevant to Wild fans simply to see what’s going on.

    Michael Russo published an article in the dead-tree version of the Star Tribune on Tuesday titled, “A fortnight of faded fortunes,” with a burst of alliteration, but the sample sizes are all over the map. “Nino Niederreiter has scored no goals in the past 15 games and one in the past 20. Mikko Koivu has scored two in the past 24 games, Jason Pominville one in the past 20, Jason Zucker one in the past 14, Erik Haula one in the past 18, Parise two in the past 12 and Coyle four in the past 37.” That’s not what I’ve been thinking about.

    What I’m looking for is what’s the difference between the first 60 and the last 15 games?

    For that, I’m afraid I’ve resorted to the NHL.com website. It’s been panned in the past for having inaccurate data, but hopefully the basic stuff here is correct. I’ll post the images, so you can see what I’m working off of. If it’s not accurate, just let me know in the comments. But the site has the ability to search date ranges and shooting percentage is one of the data points. This is all-situation, as opposed to 5v5, but I think the images make the point I’ve been thinking about over the past week.

    Through 60 games, the Wild were second in the league behind the Washington Capitals in points.

    Over the last 15 games, the Wild has collected eight points.

    Through the first 60 games, this is the all-situation shooting percentage of the Wild’s forwards.

    Through 60 games even those with sunglasses tinted in Iron Range Red and Forest Green knew that this couldn’t last. The fourth liners weren’t going to lead the team in shooting percentage. Chris Stewart is a nice tool on the fourth line at home to work against the other team’s bottom six, but Stewart, Tyler Graovac and Jordan Schroeder play 10 or fewer minutes per game for a reason. Moreover, I wrote about how Koivu’s 5v5 shooting percentage likely wouldn’t continue. The Hockey Ninja is still taking all of the tough minutes and deployment.

    But look at Granny, Nino, Zucker and Coyle. Those are the players that we’ve been waiting for for four years to break out. The guys who looked like they might have the talent to be either stars or very good players producing through the first three-quarters of the season. They look like stars!

    This is the shooting percentage of the forwards over the last 15 games in March.

    Staal’s on a run and Parise, finally, is producing. Granny still looks good and Coyle’s been solid next to Staal. But, good gravy, Nino, Haula, Zucker and Koivu’s numbers have all hit the toilet.

    According to Hockey-Reference.com, Parise’s all-situation shooting percentage since joining the Wild is 11.1, Coyle’s at 11.6 and Granlund’s at 9.9. Nino’s shooting percentage since coming over to the Wild is 12.5 and Haula’s career shooting percentage is 10.9 and Zucker’s is 11.9.

    In brief, I just think Wild fans just need to breath. The 2010s either will continue to roll or pick up the slack. The Wild has depth through the first three lines. And, once Dubnyk bounces back, this March lull will look like the speed bump that it is. The rut will turn into a groove and we’ll all chuckle about this little rough patch in March after the Wild steamroll the Senators, Nashville and the non-playoff teams at the end of the season on the way to the second seed in the Western Conference.

    Just for fun, let’s add in the D-men, Nate Prosser leads the team in shooting percentage over the last 15 games. He’s one for three! Shout out to Elk River!

    All stats courtesy of naturalstattrick.com, corsica.hockey, hockey-reference.com and NHL.com!

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